Director’s Briefing – September 2016

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To the sixty-fourth Briefing and the ninth scheduled Briefing of 2016. My ability to be militant is waning as the start of the new semester approaches. Hopefully, however this will be the last summer for a few years where I need to build a brand-new module from scratch as opposed to updating existing modules – but such are the growing pains of working for a new university. My institution became fully independent on 1st August so truly a new university – the University of Suffolk.
On my short actual holiday, I read the remaining two trilogies by Juliet McKenna, namely her Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution and the Hadrumal Crisis, and again these are highly recommended. In one of her forewords, she makes the point that publishing has changed since her first novels were published. In particular, bookshops tend not to stock the complete set of an author’s works, which means that a reader might not be able to lay their hands on earlier books in a sequence when they are in the store. Readers might be put off getting into the current trilogy when they cannot readily access earlier works. “Return to the world of X” can discourage new readers as much as it might entice old fans. For Juliet McKenna, making her back catalogue available as ebooks has been one solution to this problem, and I hope it is working for her.
Turning to our industry, the number of game stores, certainly in thr UK, has dwindled with the shelf space for rpgs contracted and only the most popular or those with popular media licenses maintaining a modest presence in the smaller stores or in general bookshops. Obviously there remain exceptional stores which stock in both breadth and depth, but they are becoming the exceptions that prove the rule. We would be interested in hearing your anecdotal evidence on how healthy your local favourite game store is, so please post in the forums.
For us, ebooks have allowed us to keep the depth of the ICE back catalogue available. Where we find opportunities to bring back missing products and enable the authors to finally make a few dollars on their work, we will continue to do so. All of the back catalogue already up will continue to remain available as ebooks, by the way, even when we publish the new Rolemaster. Print-on-demand has ensured that for new books such as the HARP / HARP SF lines, the Shadow World line, and in due course RMU, we can offer softcover and hardcover versions of our products without needing costly print runs, physical distribution channels, or gaming stores. An analysis of our sales shows that while print sales represent a significant fraction of our sales of new books (i.e. those we have in both pdf and print), pdf sales for such books represent the majority of our sales. What we cannot tell, of course, if this is a price matter or a preference matter (are ebooks the only books you can fit on your shelves?). We would be interested in your thoughts on this too.
Graham is making solid progress on Treasure Law. Jonathan and Joeri are deep in the innards of Creature Law. I will be asking Matt (now that he has had some recovery time) to review Spell Law in connection with Arms & Character Law to ensure nothing has been missed.
The Arms & Character Law manuscript has been circulated to our three software creators and they are busy digesting it in terms of how it might be implemented in software.
ERA for RolemasterERA Essence Companion for Rolemaster
We have two new ERA datasets, namely Essence Companion and Mentalism Companion. These new datasets do require an update to the base ERA software, so please ensure you update before you add to your ERA collection. Those who receive publisher updates from OneBookShelf will have already received an advisory email via them from me suggesting updating the base package.
Shadow World
Terry continues to work on multiple writing projects. In editing, his queue is “Priest-King of Shade” which will get a new name to avoid any confusion with the original Shade of the Sinking Plain, and then Lethys.
There has been renewed interest in fans contributing to (along with Terry) to a canonical periodical or quarterly on Shadow World. Terry and I think this would be perhaps 30-odd pages in size, published as individual pdfs, and then assembled yearly into a print volume. It will only work if there are fans willing to write and deliver good material on time. Interested? Please post on the Shadow World board on our forums.
HARP Loot is with Terry in layout. I have already seen the first few chapters and have been checking that the replacement art from Maria, Raymond and Rick has been slotted into the right places. Once Terry has completed a full pass, I will perform a check to see that all the textual changes have been made correctly. I would expect us to be releasing HARP Loot this month in pdf, and then proceed to print in October.
The art is expected to be in for HARP Folkways for the end of this month, and it will then be handed over to Terry for layout. I have already received some of the art from Maria and this is all looking great. The goal is to have Folkways available in pdf and print for Dragonmeet in December.
On HARP Bestiary, I am battling through applying Undead Overlays to exemplar characters. At some level, I am making life more difficult for myself by creating multiple instantiations of Undead, i.e. Ghosts come in Lesser, Greater and Ghost Lord form, so I’ve created three example Ghosts, one for each class of Ghost. However, hopefully GMs using Bestiary will find this useful in giving them three prebuilt Ghosts and so forth. John Duffield is working on the Lycanthropes chapter and has similar Overlay work to do.
Last month, I raised various questions for discussion on the forums relating to “Something Wicked”. The first question was regarding the name. Having listened to the thinking on the boards, I am minded to keep the essence of the name but perhaps modify it to indicate that the subject matter has become more than the original concept. I will have a rummage in the text of Macbeth and perhaps a couple of other Shakespearian plays and see if there is something more apt. The second question was on the inclusion of the Shadowblade/Nightblade profession – following the discussion, I will construct a balanced Nightblade profession and it will either appear in “Something Wicked” or if we have someone working on HARP Subterfuge by that point, I will happily give it to their book. (Of course, if someone would like to sign up to work on HARP Subterfuge now, then he or she could build a balanced Nightblade and probably other valuable new professions as well). Answers to the other questions on spells to rework and material to include have been very helpful so far, so please keep them coming.
I hope to sort out the contractual arrangements for HARP Strongholds soon. I also have approved a proposed outline for HARP Beyond the Veil, a sourcebook on the divine and religions in HARP, and again the contract needs to be organised for this in terms of deadlines etc.
Do let us know if you are planning to run Rolemaster, HARP or Spacemaster games at conventions. Colin will publicise your event and we can provide various forms of prize support. Peter Sotos, for instance, is running a Rolemaster game at BrigadeCon. He will be using RM 2nd Edition for the rules, the Harn world as setting, and pregenerated characters. Peter plans to use as his online game delivery engine. The game will be broadcast on YouTube as a LiveEvent. BrigadeCon is 29th October 2016. This is an online convention, so if your schedule and/or timezone permit, please get involved.
On the subject of conventions, we have purchased our trade stand and exhibitor passes for Dragonmeet 2016. This will be held on Saturday 3rd December at the Novotel London West in Hammersmith, London. Anyone interested in running a Rolemaster, HARP/HARP SF, or Spacemaster game?
Until next time
Expect HARP Loot to appear soon. The next scheduled Briefing will be in October.
Best wishes,
Director, Guild Companion Publications Ltd.
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